Elk County, Pennsylvania residents have been complaining about a loud, obnoxious hum coming from an abandoned natural gas well pad that’s been converted into a crypto mining plant.
Why is it so noisy? Well, the process these crypto miners are using is called ‘wellhead mining’, where the facility is powered by an engine directly connected to an oil or gas well. Essentially it’s using fossil fuels from an abandoned gas well to power the facility instead of plugging into a power grid. As you imagine, these machines are big and very loud, so loud, in fact, that the noise pollution can be heard in multiple surrounding townships.
To make matters worse, Capital and Main reported (opens in new tab) that the company behind this mining operation, Diversified Production, installed and started running crypto-mining equipment before it got the permits to do so. Pennsylvania law requires companies to get a permit to construct or operate the engines to power a cryptocurrency mine.
Over the past few years, crypto miners nationwide have bought abandoned natural gas wellheads, coal mines, and old steel plants to establish their crypto-mining operations. The Department of Environmental Protection found the Diversified Production mine in violation since it “had installed equipment for its cryptocurrency operations before the issuance of a plan approval issued by the Department, ” according to Tom Decker of the DEP’s Northwest Regional Office. The company has environmental violations at 19 other well sites.
The report says that Diversified has come under some scrutiny because it has recently been buying up “tens of thousands” of old gas well sites with no clearly stated purpose. The fear is that the company could increase or extend fossil fuel production in areas trying to transition toward cleaner energy sources.
Environmental groups are saying that the emissions of this sort of crypto mining (opens in new tab), should it continue, could set back climate progress decades, specifically Pennsylvania’s climate goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26% by 2025.
A lobbying group told Capital and Main that these Bitcoin mining facilities could act as an “environmental cleanup machine’ because they hook up to wells already leaking methane to power a “revenue generating task” and are currently pushing legislation for states to partner with Bitcoin miners.
As far as the noise is concerned, nearby communities are adjusting their zoning ordinances to require that any future crypto mining projects now need to be set at least 100 feet from a street or property line and stay within maximum noise levels.
For now, it seems like Diversified’s permits could be in jeopardy for violating the state’s Air Pollution Control Act with its premature installation of crypto mining gear.